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Some Helena businesses requiring masks when entering the store

"Well, we're trying to save people's lives."
Posted at 6:20 PM, May 27, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-28 12:52:47-04

The Real Food Market & Deli began a new rule requiring their customers to wear a mask when in the store.

"Well, we're trying to save people's lives. Masks seem like a really easy way to keep people from getting sick," says Laughing Water, owner of the market.

In legal terms, one Helena lawyer who practices civil law confirmed with MTN that businesses do have the right to require customers to wear masks because they have the right to refuse service to anyone.

The lawyer says it is only illegal if they refuse service based only on a protected class like race, ethnicity, or religion.

As far as ethics, there are two sides according to a professor.

"There seems to be two sides to that. If you show up and give out masks, people will think, 'well you must think that I'm sick or I could be sick and maybe you think I don't take care of myself.' I've also read that some people take it the other way around. If you show up with a mask, sometimes people describe that as 'Virtue Signaling.' Virtue Signaling, the idea of saying to everybody 'hey, I'm a good person, look at how good I am, I have my mask on," says Mark Smillie, a professor at Carroll College under the Philosophy department. He teaches courses dealing with ethics.

The owner of Birds and Beasleys is also requiring masks for customers. She likened wearing a mask to wearing a seat belt.

"It is as simple as putting on a seat belt. We don't do it because we expect to get into an accident, we're not wearing a mask because we expect to get sick. We're just trying to keep track so we don't have another uptick in infections," says Sandy Shull, the owner.

The market has received backlash for their mask rule, including a phone call about a possible protest in the future.

Both businesses give masks if you don't have one and offer curbside pickup.